When Vice President Joe Biden visited UN headquarters in New York last week, it was all about his international agenda. Biden’s speech highlighted six foreign policy areas he is passionate about: Defeating the Islamic State, confronting Chinese aggression in Asia, limiting nuclear proliferation, overcoming starvation and pollution, promoting free and fair trade, and addressing climate change.
Biden laid out a wide-ranging vision for international cooperation in just two minutes. Here’s how the assessment compares to reality today.
Defeating the Islamic State
President Trump said in his first State of the Union Address that while the “Islamic State in its various forms will soon be defeated, the threat of terrorism will endure.” Biden’s goal to “stand together” with “the Muslim world” to eliminate extremism and sectarianism is ambitious.
The U.S. isn’t even the top fighting force in the Greater Middle East. This week the top fighting force in Iraq was backed by a coalition of nearly 100 countries, including around 30 in the Muslim world.
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Biden’s one-line speech on climate change centered on helping poor nations recover from extreme weather events like Hurricane Michael and wildfires in Portugal. While the Trump administration backs sweeping climate policy that cuts greenhouse gas emissions and wants to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, a newly formed group of US global warming skeptics aims to reduce emissions and bolster the industry.
China’s aggression in Asia
While China’s slowdown of trade with the U.S. and increased military spending in Asia is concerning, Biden’s discussions with U.S. allies in the region were glowing. He presented the “strong unity” of the U.S. and its allies, or as he put it, the “security of this great democracy to all the Pacific Rim countries.” That could all change in the near future.
A stable North Korea
In his comments, Biden struck a tone of peace. “The absence of nuclear weapons or the desire for them will bring peace to this region, and that’s what we’re going to work for.”
In reality, North Korea has tested its weapons system more than 100 times since the end of the Korean War. A Korean peninsula without nuclear weapons would be an unspeakable nightmare to so many in the region.
Biden is sincere about efforts to reduce hunger in Asia, where half of the world’s 100 million hungry people live. Yet his one-word response to developing countries’ excessive debt, which spiraled out of control in the mid-2000s and caused thousands of public hospitals to shut their doors, is to tell them to “pay up.”